Often do we hear the term “Dark Souls-like difficulty” in gaming today. It’s a term that’s thrown from a pillar to a post to simply point out that a game is hard. Do we really need to use the term this much? Probably not. One thing I will say however is that I only use that term lightly, and when The Surge released earlier this year I certainly made that exact comparison. The Surge is a very difficult game and although it’s not quite as brutally unforgiving as Dark Souls, it’s still one that instils that characteristic. Needless to say however is that The Surge most definitely ticked a lot of boxes for the hardcore gamer, despite the few issues that came with. Fast forward several months and here we sit with the first expansion, ironically titled A Walk in the Park.
While the base game (needed to play this expansion) had a grim setting that took us to places such as sewers and factories, the expansion takes place within the confines of an amusement park. It’s bright, it’s colourful and it’s wonderfully designed, but it doesn’t come without its fair share of problems. CREO World was built specifically for CREO employees and their families, but it’s since become nothing more than a pretty and enticing death trap. Murderous robotic mascots patrol the grounds awaiting new visitors and any rescue teams have been driven insane. Main man Warren once again throws himself head first into danger in an attempt to try and do some good in a world that’s otherwise gone to shit. That being said, the story is largely just a dressing for the gameplay and has been lightly implemented into the main event, but it’s not nearly as interesting as it could have been.
The core game dished up some magnificent level design and although CREO World is a totally different (more open) beast, the design is equally as commendable. It’s possibly the best designed amusement park I’ve encountered in a game since Left for Dead 2’s Dark Carnival. CREO World is rife with dangers and secrets, and constantly entices you to engage with everything you come across. The semi-linearity gameplay from the base game has been replaced with something much more open and multi-branching, leaving you to go where and when you please, and at your own pace. The expansion packs a total of 16 new weapons, along with new implants and armour sets. As was the case in the main serving this isn’t going to be a walk in the park, no matter how beefy and prepared you are. The harsh difficulty is every bit as dominant as the base content, meaning if you’re not extremely careful, you’ll be likely to take that proverbial dirt nap again, and again…and again.
Quests that you’re assigned to complete will be provided to you by a human character within the park, and you will indeed still be able to heal yourself and craft new gear via the hub. Throughout the course of the expansion you will constantly revisit the hub and suss out new paths that you didn’t previously know existed. This was one of my favourite aspects when it came to the design of the core game, being that it felt like a very lengthy map but didn’t require you to backtrack the same path over and over again. It’s that “ah-ha” level design that made The Surge stand out for me, or at least as far as the map is concerned. Mercifully that exact formula is present in A Walk in the Park, and it’s of equal quality – if not more than – to the main campaign. The Surge was a well rounded game that had some innovative gameplay mechanics, more notably when it comes to the combat. A Walk in the Park adopts the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach, and doesn’t throw anything new into the mix as a result.
Combat and traversal is the same here as it is in the main game, but that can be forgiven thanks to how intuitive it is. Combat remains fluid and well paced, giving you the ability to block, evade and attack your foes with just the right amount of breathing space. You can also once again target specific limbs which will – if successfully executed – give you the chance to earn some rewards or schematics for the effort. There’s plenty of customisation options to sink into and I felt that there’s enough content packed in A Walk in the Park to justify the lenient asking price. My biggest gripe with the game is the lack of enemy variants. Sure, there’s goofy homicidal mascots to tackle, the aforementioned crazy soldiers, and the addition of nanite enemies and boss fights, but none of these encounters really stood out for me. Don’t get me wrong, the enemy design is passable but I would have expected more variants at the very least.
A Walk in the Park is a solid expansion that bundles a good portion of content. The lack of enemy variants is a let down, which is surprising seeing as this was the chief criticism from the core game. I also found the story to be somewhat less interesting than it could have been. Outside of those two flaws, this new content is brilliant. The design of the map is outstanding and the gameplay remains as tight, tense and intriguing as the formula that fans have all come to love. It helps of course that the price is well set, but you will indeed need The Surge in order to play as this is not a standalone serving. If you enjoyed the core campaign, you have every reason to enjoy A Walk in the Park, just don’t expect it to be too different – but is that such a bad thing? Hell no.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.